High-Tech Goodies Even An Executive Would LovePublished: January 11, 2006 in Knowledge@Emory
Is it possible to combine business insights with a holiday shopping list? Of course it is! Knowledge@Emory takes a look at some of the high-tech holiday gift offerings available this year. Add a sprinkling of commentary by professors at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School on business trends or product companies and this yuletide story is complete.
Slingbox by Sling Media ($250)
The Slingbox permits users to watch their television from any computer in the world. Slingbox is a hardware device that hooks between a television and the video source (cable, satellite, DVR or digital video recorder), allowing viewers to watch and control their television remotely via a broadband Internet connection and technology called place-shifting. Any PC running the SlingPlayer client software, which dynamically adjusts depending on network speed to ensure a high quality video experience, can be used to “export” your television. The possibilities are endless, from watching local news while overseas to keeping up with the latest financial trends from an airport lounge to rooting for your favorite sports team over your laptop during a business trip to Hong Kong. Many are surprised that Sling Media’s business model does not include service fees.
Benn Konsynski, a chaired professor of decision and information analysis at Goizueta comments, "Sling Media selected a business model that does not charge reoccurring fees unlike many digital services. This makes the Slingbox attractive to consumers and will help with consumer adoption of the Slingbox device."
ARIA Media Center HTPC by Voodoo PC ($3500)
Personal computers running a specialized version of the Windows XP operating system, housed in cases attractive enough for the living room, are finally beginning to deliver the promises of convergence. Media Center PCs play DVDs, music and video stored on the hard drive, and function as Tivo-like digital video recorders (DVR), while retaining all the capabilities of standard PCs. While similarly featured HTPCs (the HT denotes home theater) are available from many manufactures, Voodoo PC’s version, called the ARIA Media Center HTPC, is one of the most dramatic. It features an integrated touch screen LCD and an aluminum chassis that can blend perfectly with other high-end AV equipment, or it can stand out, depending on which color is selected.
Digital Hotspotter by Canary Wireless ($60)
The Digital Hotspotter allows users to detect active WiFi 802.11b and g access points (hotspots) without the need to boot up a PC. The palm-sized device features an LCD screen, which displays vital information, including signal strength, encryption status, and network ID. Unlike competing products, which use simple scale LEDs to indicate the strength of the available WiFi signal, the Digital Hotspotter can provide information about several distinct access points in a crowded wireless environment. The opportunity for custom branding for quantities over 50 is also available.
VAIO FJ Series Notebook by Sony ($1500)
The VAIO FJ notebooks features a built-in camera and microphone, making them ideal for keeping in touch with colleagues, clients and family while on the road—
without the need for an additional pocketful of accessories. Coupled with the bundled software, or the popular freely available Skype 2.0, the VAIO FJ becomes a powerful voice and video chat platform. The gorgeous widescreen LCD, slim design, and lightweight appeal make the FJ an ideal traveling companion, and the variety of available metallic colors will please the style conscious.
Wireless iPod Headphones by Logitech ($120)
The newest iPod players, which feature video playback and slimmer forms this season, are perennial holiday favorites. For those sticking with previous generation models (including the iPod mini), the Logitech Wireless iPod Headphones are a great accessory. Bluetooth wireless networking technology provides interference-free sound up to 30 feet away, and remote controls on the headphones allow the iPod to be conveniently stashed away. A version for Mp3 players other than the iPod are also available, but the remote control features are limited to volume adjustment.
According to Bowman, “New accessories for existing popular products, like the iPod, are good bets for companies like Logitech. Consumers are familiar with the brand name of the popular product and they know which of their family and friends already own the product, so accessories make gift giving easy for season shoppers.“
adidas_1 1.1 Running Shoe by Adidas ($250)
The 1.1 version of this running shoe, featuring embedded microprocessors that dynamically adjust the cushioning in the heel of the shoe to the runner and the current surface conditions, improves on its predecessor in a number of key areas. The faster processor allows the shoe to respond more than twice as quickly to changes in terrain as before and the increased range of cushioning settings provides improved comfort.
"The integration of technology in categories like toys, apparel, and athletic shoes is a trend we can expect to see continue beyond this holiday season," observes Bowman. "Technology is a logical way for a brand to extend its portfolio in a meaningful way to technology minded consumers. The key for technologies integration success is for the benefit of the technology to be meaningful to a targeted group of consumers and easy for consumers to understand."
eNook by Anthro ($400)
Furniture typically isn’t usually considered high-tech, but this wall-mounted laptop workstation deserves a mention. The Anthro eNook features a 30” by 16.5” work surface that flips up and locks to safely store your laptop out of sight, providing a modern take on the classic roll-top desk. When closed, the eNook is a mere 7.5” deep. The eNook also provides a convenient place to charge and store all of your other gadgets including cellphones, PDAs, MP3 players, and digital cameras, while keeping the cords and power transformers out of sight. The back panel conveniently functions as a bulletin board and is easily customizable to match your decor.
YSP-800 and -1000 by Yamaha ($800, $1500 respectively)
The increasing adoption of flat-panel high definition televisions is bringing a new sense of style to living and media rooms. The corresponding audio systems have remained large and clunky and are inarguably in need of an update. Yamaha has created a single unit containing dozens of small speakers which are driven individually to simulate the surround sound effects, which have typically required unsightly wires or expensive renovation projects to hide them. The YSP-800 features 23 speakers and is sized to match smaller flat panel televisions, while the YSP-1000 has 42 and is sized to complement larger screens. Both models feature an auto-calibration mode to ensure the sound is optimized for your particular viewing area.
Skype Cordless Phone by Linksys ($120)
Skype is essentially phone over the Internet. While Skype can be used with any PC microphone and headset, the Skype Cordless Phone by Linksys makes it easy for executives to explore the benefits of VoIP with a handset that looks and works just like a standard cordless desk telephone. The base station connects to a PC via a USB port. Calls can even be made to people that do not use Skype at a charge of a few cents per minute.
“EBay's turning up the heat in the telephone services industry with its new Skype purchase,” says Dominic Thomas, a visiting assistant professor of decision and information analysis at Goizueta. “This collaboration with Linksys puts inexpensive VoIP in consumer hands with the addition of presence and contact management, along with extended features available only through such a service. While the interface is not yet a seamless replacement for a telephone (you have to learn a few Skype dialing conventions) and your computer must be on to use the phone, the product offers a neat toy for Christmas.” However, Thomas cautions, “I would not replace the landline with this one yet.”
BlackBerry 7130e by Research in Motion ($350 with 1 year service plan contract)
The newest iteration in the family of Blackberry business phones is the first to be EVDO (Evolution Data Only or Evolution Data Optimized) capable. EVDO is a wireless broadband protocol allowing the users to access e-mail and the web at speeds of up to 2 Mbps, which approaches the speed of wired broadband connections. This BlackBerry can also share this high-speed connection with a computer.
30” LCD Computer Display by Dell (To be announced)This last minute gift idea is expected to be released just days before Christmas. This 30” LCD with WQXGA resolution (2560 x 1600 pixels) matches the largest display in Apple’s Cinema Display line pixel for pixel. Dell’s version includes a convenient 9-in-1 multimedia card reader and is expected to retail for several hundred dollars less than the competition, though the final price has not been announced.